Programme and Abstracts

A copy of the programme can also be downloaded here: Pac Rim 28 Programme.

Sunday 6 July: 5.00pm to 7.00 pm Reception (Boardroom: City Campus, La Trobe University)
Day 1 Monday 7 July (Boardroom: City Campus, La Trobe University)
Welcome 9.15 am to 9.30 am
Session 1chair: Art Pomeroy 9.30 am to 10.00 am Marcus Wilson ‘The Godless Romans: Towards a Theory of Roman Atheism’
10.00 am to 10.30 am Dougal Blyth ‘Theorising Roman cult: Augustine on Varro’
Morning Tea    10.00 am to 10.30 am
Session 2chair: Jonathan Wallis 11.00 am to 12.00 pm Anne Rogerson ‘Heading towards Rome, lemma by lemma: the opening lines of Aeneid 8’
12.00 pm to 12.30 pm Christina Robertson ‘The Road to Rome: the journeys of Aeneas and Aesculapius in Ovid’s Metamorphoses
Lunch 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm
Season 3chair: Kyle Conrau-Lewis 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm Peter Davis ‘Reflections on Freedom of Speech in Virgil and Ovid’
Afternoon Tea 3.00 pm to 3.30 pm
Season 4chair: Andrew Turner 3.30 pm to 4.00 pm Scot McPhee ‘Commanders and Commentary: The City and Territorial Discourse in the Roman Imagination’
Day 2 Tuesday 8 July (Boardroom: City Campus, La Trobe University)
Session 1chair: Sonya Wurster 9.30 am to 10.00 am Sarah Midford ‘Vergil in the Bush: Locating the Roman Pastoral Ideal in a Colonial Australian Landscape’
10.00 am to 10.30 am John Davidson Exegi Monumentum: the Roman construction of R.A.K. Mason’
Morning Tea 10.30am to 11.00 am
Session 2chair: Rhiannon Evans 11.00 am to 12.00 pm Andrew Turner ‘Reimagining late-republican Rome: The early reception of Sallust’
12.00 pm to 12.30 pm Tom Stevenson ‘The Rome of ‘Camillus’ in Livy 5’
Lunch 12.30 pm to 2.00 pm
Season 3chair: Peter Davis 2.00 pm to 3.00 pm John Penwill ‘Rome as Prize: Civil War and Two Poets’
Afternoon Tea 3.00 pm to 3.30 pm
Season 4chair: Anne Rogerson 3.30 pm to 4.00 pm Kyle Conrau-Lewis ‘Statius’ Bellum Civile’
4.00 pm to 4.30 pm Michael Hanaghan ‘Sidonius triumphalis, the journey to Rome and Ricimer’s marriage (Ep. I.5)’
Day 3 Wednesday 9 July (Boardroom: City Campus, La Trobe University)
Session 1chair: John Penwill 9.45 am to 10.30 am Art Pomeroy ‘And What is Rome to Him? Roma in Silius’
Morning Tea 10.30am to 11.00 am
Session 2chair: Tom Stevenson 11.00 am to 12.00 pm Sonya Wurster ‘Theorising Roman Decline’
12.00 pm to 12.30 pm Rhiannon Evans ‘Rome away from Home: Caesar and Cicero Write Back’
Free afternoon
Conference dinner: 7.00 pm until late: Henry and the Fox (535 Little Collins St)


University of Auckland

Theorising Roman cult: Augustine on Varro

In his City of God Augustine both reports and interprets Varro’s theorising about Roman religion from the lost Divine Antiquities. Augustine’s method and results rest on later cultural (not merely religious) assumptions he does not share with Varro.  Comparing these assumptions with Varro’s own recoverable aims highlights not only Augustine’s unsurprising revaluation of traditional Roman political culture, but also a transformation in mode and status of such theorising between the late republic and late antiquity.  Varro distinguishes (a.i) a literate aristocracy, to be reconciled with traditional cult by way of philosophical allegorising reinterpretation, from (a.ii) the illiterate majority who are not to be told of this; which Augustine transforms into a distinction between (b.i) philosophical initiates in an art of detecting in the text coded messages denying cult any validity and (b.ii) a wider reading public whose belief in cult is to be left undisturbed.

Firstly, then, Augustine’s systematic misunderstanding reveals a cultural transformation resulting in the putative universality of literacy (where the role of the wise is to interpret textual arcana), and an obliviousness to the implications of the earlier primacy of orality in political and philosophical culture.  Secondly, this casts into doubt the validity of the twentieth-century political philosopher Leo Strauss’ use of the same method of interpretation for all ancient philosophical texts (see his Persecution and the Art of Writing).

University of Melbourne

Statius’ Bellum Civile

A good deal of recent scholarship has addressed the relationship between Statius’ Thebaid and Rome (for example, Newlands, 2009; McNelis, 2007; Braund, 2006; McGuire, 1997; Dominik, 1994). That Thebes would provide an allegorical double of Rome is not surprising given their similar stories of civil war and turbulent government. This paper, however, does not address the controversial question of whether Statius is pro- or anti-Domitian and whether Statius’ Thebes is a covert commentary on contemporary imperial Rome. Rather this paper looks at how Statius’ Thebaid is also a text rooted in Roman past, an epic as much about Julio-Claudian dynasty as about the Flavians (Henderson, 1998). More specifically, this paper will explore how a number of Statius’ characters and scenes have special antecedents in Lucan and how Statius in many ways reimagines the civil war between Caesar and Pompey in a Theban context.

This paper will argue that key passages (for example, the Argive march to Thebes in Book 7) and characters (primarily, Hippomedon, Capaneus and Polynices) often echo scenes from the Bellum Civile. However, this is not to treat the Thebaid as simple allegory. Indeed, Statius’ Thebaid may be considered a counterpoint or correction to Lucan’s epic (Malamud, 1995). This paper will argue that Statius’ allusions to Lucan are highly problematic. Characters such as Polynices share similarities with Lucan’s Caesar but Statius does not condemn Polynices as harshly as Lucan does Caesar, but often presents him sympathetically. This paper will argue that Statius conjures up images, scenes and characters of the Bellum Civile only to subvert and undo these allusions, suggesting an ambiguous and deeply troubling relationship between his epic and Rome.

Victoria University, Wellington

Exegi Monumentum: the Roman construction of R.A.K. Mason

R.A.K. (Ron) Mason (1905-1971) has been seen as the first New Zealand poet of genuine significance writing in English. He was an excellent student of Latin at school and university, but never embarked on an academic career, entering instead into a life of radical left-wing political involvement from the 1930s onwards, characterized by periods of considerable hardship, ill-health and poverty. Critical writing about his work (e.g. Doyle 1970; Weir 1977) has generally noted with approval his appropriation of Roman poetry, in particular Catullus and Horace, while his translation of Horace, Odes 3.13 when he was still at school has been greatly admired and is included in his Collected Poems (1962). He himself frequently acknowledged the influence of Latin, especially on his style.

This paper seeks to re-examine Mason’s relationship with his Roman literary forerunners in an attempt to see if titles such as ‘In Perpetuum Vale’, ‘Lugete O Veneres’ and ‘Nox Perpetua Dormienda’ signal poems displaying any significant engagement with Rome, or are merely pegs on which to hang an entirely different agenda. The importance to Mason of A.E. Housman, a favourite poet of his youth especially, is also considered, as is the precise nature of Mason’s response to particular odes of Horace.

The most far-reaching recent study of Mason is the award-winning biography by Rachel Barrowman (2003). This work deals with far more than Mason’s poetry, of course, but it does include some assessment of the poetry itself and its Roman content. My paper will also take account of Barrowman, and so in a sense is partly my assessment (reception), as a Classicist, of Barrowman’s reception of Mason’s reception of Catullus and Horace and the Roman world which they reflect.

University of Adelaide

Reflections on Freedom of Speech in Virgil and Ovid

The concept of liberty is rarely invoked in Augustan epic, with libertas occurring only once in the Aeneid’s narrative and only once in Metamorphoses. On both occasions it explicitly denotes freedom of speech, with Drances insisting on his right to speak frankly before Turnus (11.346) and Byblis assuming that she holds the right to speak freely with her brother (9.559). If statistics suggest that Augustan epic poets are indifferent to one of the great republican freedoms, their narratives suggest otherwise.

This paper will reflect upon the changing nature of free speech in the Augustan period through an examination of episodes in its two most important epics. It will focus primarily on the council of the Latins in Aeneid 11 and a sequence of stories in Metamorphoses 2 and 3 in which outspokenness is punished.

It is particularly striking that while Virgil’s Drances can demand freedom of speech in a public context, Ovid’s Byblis raises the issue of freedom of speech in an entirely private context, in a letter to her brother. This reflects, I suggest, the altered political circumstances between the 20s BCE and the first decade CE.

La Trobe University

Rome away from Home: Caesar and Cicero Write Back

Julius Caesar and Cicero were both absent from Rome for a period of the 50s BCE. To a certain extent this was forced upon both of them: in 58 Caesar stepped outside the pomerium and therefore took up his proconsular post to secure immunity from prosecution; Cicero was driven out in the same year by Clodius’ retrospective law on execution without trial. The circumstances of the two men – provincial governor and exile – could not have been more different. Yet their perspectives on Rome and what is significant about Rome at this critical juncture set up an interesting juxtaposition: two masters of the Latin language write back to Rome and about Rome.

This paper will consider the versions of Rome which Caesar and Cicero construct from afar. In the Bellum Gallicum Caesar presents an indirect, ‘big picture’, image of Roman society, rarely engaging directly with the momentous events of the 50s, yet frequently commenting on Rome in the voices of the Galli and Germani. Various versions of Rome and ‘anti-Rome’ are created in this text. Caesar implicitly constructs a new standard of Roman leadership and heroism, both in relation to specific victories and in the supplicationes granted at Rome which close a number of books. The view from the Gauls and Germani is more varied and contentious. While Ariovistus, another empire-builder, critiques Rome’s reach and allows Caesar to explore the tensions inherent in Roman imperialism (BG 1.34-36), Vercingetorix’ rise to power might be seen as mirroring that of Rome itself (BG 7.4). On the other hand Cicero’s main text from exile, the letters he wrote to Atticus in 58 and 57, necessarily present a personal, even egocentric, view of the Rome which Cicero is missing. He is desperate for information from the centre (Att. 3.7.3, 3.8.2, 3.11.1 etc.) and dependent upon others to maintain a semblence of order back home (Att. 3.6.1, 3.8.4). Cicero’s Rome is a place of fear and mistrust, yet also one of longing which typically aligns exile with disgrace and death. In both cases, distance allows for a renewed perspective, and creates two distinct and dynamic visions of Rome in the late Republic.

University of Sydney

Sidonius triumphalis, the journey to Rome and Ricimer’s marriage (Ep. I.5)

In late 467CE, Sidonius Apollinaris journeyed from his native Gaul to Rome. There on the 1st of January 468 Sidonius delivered a panegyric in honour of the Emperor Anthemius, who had recently married off his daughter Alyppia to the barbarian potentate Ricimer. Sidonius’ journey to Rome is recorded in Epistle I.5. Recent scholarship has noted that the route it outlines is more than likely fictitious.

In Ep. I.5 Sidonius alludes to a wide variety of authors, principally Pliny the Younger, Statius, Horace and Virgil. These allusions interact with Sidonius’ experience of space through autopsy throughout the travelogue. This paper argues that Sidonius styles himself as an invading general, through literary allusions to the landscape he passes that invoke war, specifically civil war in Italy. Sidonius straddles imagined borders, as paradoxically an insider and outsider. He is a transalpinus from Rhodanusia where his abundance of friends compete for his affections, but in Rome, once he passes the triumphalia limina no-one greets him, forcing him to pay for private lodgings.

Ep. I.5 ends with a description of Rome during the nuptial celebration for Alyppia and Ricimer’s union. The moment of the final scenes of the letter is at the point of transition: Ricimer and Alyppia have been married but Alyppia is yet to cross the threshold so that the marriage may be consummated. Rome meanwhile is in chaos.

Sidonius’ description of the wedding stands as a powerful allegory for the political environment of the late 460’s CE, as decades of destabilization undermined Roman authority. The allusions to civil war in the journey and Sidonius’ own triumphal arrival in Rome amount to a veiled criticism of the growth in militarism of Roman politics under the influence of Ricimer.

University of Queensland

Commanders and Commentary: The City and Territorial Discourse in the Roman Imagination 

In Republican Rome, did the literature of the conquered and traversed landscape express theories about Rome itself? This paper starts with an examination of Cicero’s De Provinciis Consularibus.  In this speech, delivered to the senate, Cicero sets up a polemic between the ‘virtuous’ commander, who writes reports to the Senate on his activities in the provinces, and the ‘worthless’ commander, who does not. I argue that this comparison contrasting ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Romans exemplifies Roman attitudes about the relationship between territorial conquest and discursive knowledge on one hand, and lacunae and oblivion on the other. In turn, the paper demonstrates the ways in which such discursive practices about contested territory clearly signal Roman conceptions of Rome itself, by contrasting the city to the territory it controls. In light of this textual interplay between Roman provinces and the discursive strategies of knowledge, the paper examines further models of territorial discourse and control in other Roman writers of the Late Republic and Augustan period. In particular it interrogates Livy’s history of the Second Punic War and teases out the ways that Livy uses the actions of commanders in the field as part of his discussion of the Roman political struggle in the city. The paper undertakes a comparative analysis of Cicero’s directly political literature on the one hand, and Livy’s literary historiography of politics, on the other, to uncover the potential commonalities and differences that they share in their respective understandings of Roman ‘power projection’ in the provinces and how these affect their literary theorisations of Rome itself.

La Trobe University

Vergil in the Bush: Locating the Roman Pastoral Ideal in a Colonial Australian Landscape

When Captain Cook claimed terra Australis for the British Empire in 1770 the continent was understood to be an empty land, devoid of history, culture and civilization. Since the foundation of the colony of New South Wales Australian poetry commonly made comparisons between Australia and classical antiquity in the hope that one day soon the history and literature of the new nation would enter the Western canon. Colonial Australian literature often focused on the great potential the young civilization might enjoy. In the nineteenth century the beauty of a landscape was underpinned by classical ideals of monumentality and the Australian landscape, with its lack of monuments, was disturbing to European sensibilities. To compensate for a lack of recognisable cultural heritage Australia was depicted in literature as a new Rome in the earliest stage of its development. This paper will examine connections between Australian colonial literature and the poetry of Virgil. It will look at the work of Michael Massey Robinson, the freed convict appointed New South Wales Poet Laureate by Governor Lachlan Macquarie in 1810, who casts the British decedents of Aeneas as the founders of the Australian continent. It will also look at the work of the classicist and botanist William Woolls who connects the Virgilian pastoral ideal to the beauty and functionality of the Australian landscape. The paper will conclude by demonstrating that it was by drawing on Vergil to emphasise Australia’s agricultural merits that the great potential of the young civilization was celebrated and the need for ancient ruins was negated.

La Trobe University

Rome as Prize: Civil War and Two Poets

Two events of the mid-late 60’s brought civil war once again to the forefront of Roman consciousness: the publication of Lucan’s Bellum Ciuile and the Year of Four Emperors. Lucan’s foundation myth of Caesarism, composed within the framework of the Pisonian conspiracy, applied the blowtorch to the tidy formula pax et principatus; and in one of the grimmest examples of life imitating art the horrors there exposed became Tacitean reality some four years later. Leaving aside Statius’ Thebaid in deference to Henderson (1991/1993/1998), this paper examines the response to ever-present civil war anxiety of two poets, Valerius Flaccus and Silius Italicus.

Valerius’ Argonautica presents civil war as endemic to the human condition and one whose function is to reinforce Lucan’s grim picture (contra Stover [2012]). Each stage of Jason’s quest embroils him in an escalating series of bella plus quam ciuilia. Opening up the seas allows passage for a Fury who will unleash an endless cycle of war on the western world; Mopsus’ prophecy at 8.395-9 resonates with that of Jupiter in Book 1, who in place of the expected climax of Rome foretells war after war for world domination (1.542-60). Caesar and Vespasian are but two of the more recent chapters in this ongoing story, to which the Argonautica is the ultimate prequel.

Silius’ Punica represents the defeat of Hannibal as the great achievement of the Roman republic, one which qualifies Rome for world domination. But the future as revealed to Scipio in the underworld is one of civil war. Throughout the poem and particularly in its second half Silius sets up a comparison between Scipio and Domitian, and when weighed in this balance the latter is definitely found wanting (Penwill [2013]). Jupiter’s son Scipio’s concept of fighting for Rome is diametrically opposed to that of the deified civil warrior’s son.

Victoria University, Wellington

And What is Rome to Him? Roma in Silius.

Rome in the Punica is regularly portrayed as a rebuilt Troy (for instance as Laomedon’s city in association with the introduction of the Great Goddess 17.4 or even as ‘your Troy’ in reference to Homer’s prediction of future greatness for the family of Aeneas in 13.791). Hannibal, when attacking the city in Book 12, is shown the Olympian gods defending the walls in a clear reverse intertext with Aeneid 2.

At the same time, Rome is associated with the Homeric Greeks. Hannibal’s successes are intended to raise the glory of the Roman heroes, just as Hector’s victories increase the kleos of his eventual slayer, Achilles. Diomedes is turned back from challenging Hector by Zeus’ thunder (Il. 8, esp. 179-181) and Hector will be successful until Achilles returns to the fray (Zeus’ order: Il. 8.473-6, expanded in 15.64-71). The defenders of the Greek ships act as a wall to keep out Hector (15.618), but eventually a ship is burnt (16.122-3) which completes Zeus’ plan by drawing out Patroklos and eventually giving the Greeks glory (15.596-600). One might compare the ditch surrounding the Greek ships with the Romulan palisade which marks the limit of Hannibal’s attack and results in Jupiter’s intervention.

Rome in the Punica can, of course, be Troy. Yet this may be Troy on the offensive with the youth and elderly keeping watch and the women encouraging their men (Il. 8.517-522; cf. Pun. 12.587-604). This paper seeks to emphasize the Homeric (Greek) intertexts associated with Rome in the Punica, passing back through the more obvious Vergilian parallels. I will argue in this paper that this shows a Flavian interest in a classical Greek past (rather than the Neronian interest in Hellenistic models), mindful of Augustan-era models, but desirous of creating its own ethos.

University of Auckland

The Road to Rome: the journeys of Aeneas and Aesculapius in Ovid’s Metamorphoses

Ovid’s Metamorphoses is characterised by an overall geographical movement from east to west, culminating in the Roman themes of books 14 and 15. This paper discusses Ovid’s use of two specific journeys toward Rome in the context of this broader pattern, analysing the wanderings of Aeneas (Met.  14.75-448) and the voyage of Aesculapius (Met. 15.695-744). I argue that Ovid’s presentation of space in these episodes is important for our understanding of both the structure of the Metamorphoses and Ovid’s perception and presentation of Rome.

The Aeneas and Aesculapius episodes can be understood in relation to Ovid’s recurrent representation of journeys through space in linear, sequential terms reminiscent of itinerary and periplous literature. Journeys are frequently used as transitions in the poem, and the journeys of Aeneas and Aesculapius dramatise the transition from the mythological and heroic episodes of earlier books to the legendary and historical episodes of books 14 and 15. The sequential aspects of these episodes emphasise the sense of movement towards a goal, and thus reflect the narrative’s overall movement towards Rome. The journeys of Aeneas and Aesculapius are also significant to understanding Ovid’s perception and presentation of Rome, both as a geographical location and as a cultural touchstone. In books 14 and 15, Ovid responds to Virgil’s vision of Augustan Rome as a renascent Golden Age. Rome is the telos of these journeys, as it is of the poem itself; whether it is the also the telos of history is called into question.

University of Sydney

Heading towards Rome, lemma by lemma: the opening lines of Aeneid 8

Aeneid 8 presents readers with a series of parables, omens, and images of the future and the past, all of which bear on the question of Roman identity, but none of which encompass it. Rather, their multiple perspectives show the impossibility of the question, an impossibility emphasised by the continual blurring throughout the book of boundaries between other dualities, such as man and beast, human and divine, and love and war. Through the destabilising strangeness of an epic world where these absolutes are continually questioned even as they are reasserted, Aeneid 8 fosters the urge to impose moral certainty at the same time as it deliberately stymies such effort. From the almost universally ignored opening lines of the book, where an embassy is sent to the Greek hero Diomedes in the hope that he will see more clearly the truth of what is happening in Italy, to the much-discussed end, where the Trojan hero Aeneas shoulders a shield depicting a future he does not understand, Aeneid 8 is a book about striving towards, but never grasping, the big picture.

This paper focusses on the first fifty lines of the book, a strange false start which gestures towards a book in which Turnus will be the hero, rather than – as it turns out – Aeneas, and suggests also that the nitty gritty of present war will be the book’s focus, instead of retreat up the Tiber to look at the past and the future. I will talk about some of the challenges of my current project: drafting a commentary (a genre more associated with factoids than big pictures) on a book that works actively to confound readings that attempt to take it chunk by explicable chunk.

University of Queensland

The Rome of ‘Camillus’ in Livy 5

Towards the end of Book 5 of Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (5.50-54), ‘Camillus’ delivers an impassioned speech against the tribunes’ proposal to move the plebs from a Rome devastated by Gallic invasion to the site of newly conquered Veii.  Some years ago I argued that ‘Camillus’ describes Rome in terms that were probably meaningful to Italians of the Augustan period and that the passage can be thought of as negotiatory in character rather than a positive promotion of Augustan ideology or a negative comment on it. Jan Felix Gaertner, in 2008, countered with the view that Livy is merely reflecting traditional Roman ethics and inherited honorific vocabulary, especially of the late Republic.  He cautions against aligning the speech too closely with Augustus or ideas of the Augustan period.  In this paper I want to argue that Gaertner’s view tends to rob Livy’s text of any moral or political significance beyond the banal or commonplace, distinguishes a ‘literary’ product too sharply from a ‘historical’ or ‘political’ one, and seems to say implicitly that ideas from an earlier period are powerless or out-dated when used in the present age.

University of Melbourne

Reimagining late-republican Rome: The early reception of Sallust

The image of the Roman state which emerges in the surviving works of Sallust, Bellum Catalinae, Bellum Iugurthinum, and the fragmentary Historiae, is violent and corrupt, but the state institutions against which this action takes place still belong to the highly evolved and complex system of annual magistracies, comitia, and contiones of the late Roman republic, with their meticulous framework of checks and balances. Sallust’s works were quickly integrated into the Roman curriculum, and he became (alongside Cicero, Vergil, and Terence) one of the four standard Latin authors to be studied in schools, the so-called quadriga of Arusianus Messius. But by the time our first fragmentary papyri and manuscripts of Sallust emerged between the third and fifth centuries CE, the whole political landscape they describe had been radically transformed, and indeed most of these institutions would have been perfectly meaningless to contemporary readers. The obvious place to find an explanation of what a triumuir coloniis deducendis might be is in a commentary accompanying the text, but Sallust’s works are exceptional for the standard curriculum in that there is no real evidence for full-blown commentary traditions before the eleventh century.

This paper traces the early reception of Sallust’s late-republican Rome, looking at the (extremely sparse) evidence for the early periods, and progressing to the re-emergence of detailed commentaries in Northern Europe in the pre-scholastic period, when meticulous research into the scattered references in surviving chronicles competed with highly imaginative but often absurd attempts to recreate the world of the first century CE.

University of Auckland

The Godless Romans: Towards a Theory of Roman Atheism

That religion pervades Roman culture and literature is the dominant (in fact currently almost unchallenged) paradigm in studies of Roman history and and consequently Roman literature. This is much explored in recent scholarship by North, Beard, Price etc, and in Denis Feeney’s Literature and Religion at Rome. There is, though, an under-acknowledged tradition, I wish to argue, that rejects religion, denies the divinity of the gods and the existence of an afterlife. The best known texts are Lucretius’ account of the human sacrifice of Iphigenia and Seneca’s satire the Apocolocyntosis, but there is much other evidence in the works of Ennius, Catullus, Petronius and others. This includes drama (like Seneca’s Medea) and literary accounts of the fall from the Golden Age, characterised by the self-annihilation of the gods. On this view, even some of the prime examples of religious observance (as in the deification of emperors) can be read as a denial of divinity except as a human construction. Modern histories of atheism from outside Classics also typically elide the Roman period. Just as  Roman religion has been redefined so as to emancipate it from presuppositions inherited from Christianity, even going to the definition of what is ‘religion’ itself, so also atheism needs to be viewed in a way that is divorced from modern monotheist and christian assumptions about the nature of religion and atheism, and reconsidered in the context of Roman polytheist acceptance and rejection.

University of Melbourne

Theorising Roman Decline

Rome in the late republic was imagined as a city in crisis. Cicero and Sallust theorised that its political upheaval was the result of, firstly, a decay in traditional Roman values of the mos maiorum  such as honor, virtus, gloria, nobilitas and pietas, which had promoted collective greatness, and, secondly, an absence of direct threats to the Roman state not seen since Hannibal. In contrast, Epicureans like Lucretius and Philodemus regarded the values of the mos maiorum as one of the main reasons for Rome’s civil unrest together with misguided views of the gods, and technological advances that lead to unnatural and unnecessary desires. Although civic peace is necessary for an Epicurean’s personal security, Lucretius and Philodemus are unconcerned with fixing the broken system of the republic and are instead focused on a general ethical approach as the way forward. Both writers suggest that communal and individual well-being go hand in hand.


This paper will begin with a brief examination of Roman theories, namely those of Sallust, Cicero and Lucretius, about civil disorder before turning to Philodemus of Gadara’s view that common well-being comes from emotional self-realisation, self-control and the ethical state of rulers. In this respect the individual as a member of a community is the focus, while political systems are simply are a current state of reality. It will show that Philodemus’ solution to civil crises is personal rather than collective.  It will argue that the different theories for Rome’s political problems is suggestive of a changing approach towards the individual, their place in society as well as certain modes of knowledge. This approach saw an increasing interest in philosophy as a guide to personal conduct that altered the values of the mos mairorum.

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